Friday Reading List: The History of Segregation, Disagreements Over Free Speech, and Healthcare Wonkery

NPR's Terry Gross interviewed Richard Rothstein, whose new book covers the history of residential segregation:

In 1933, faced with a housing shortage, the federal government began a program explicitly designed to increase — and segregate — America's housing stock. Author Richard Rothstein says the housing programs begun under the New Deal were tantamount to a "state-sponsored system of segregation" ... Rothstein's new book, The Color of Law, examines the local, state and federal housing policies that mandated segregation. He notes that the Federal Housing Administration, which was established in 1934, furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods — a policy known as "redlining." At the same time, the FHA was subsidizing builders who were mass-producing entire subdivisions for whites — with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African-Americans.

Our federal and local governments did not just gently encourage racial segregation; they downright mandated it, throughout the public and private housing markets. The downstream, contemporary manifestations of these policies are unimaginably huge, as housing is THE primary way that middle class households accumulate wealth in this country.

Panama Jackson of VSB wants to know why Behune-Cookman University invited Betsy DeVos to be its commencement speaker:

Bethune-Cookman University, a historically Black university in Daytona Beach, Florida, has invited – and she has accepted – ironically titled Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to be the commencement speaker next week. I’ve read several articles about this because I’ve honestly been trying to understand and what I’ve come up with is that there is no understanding to be had. Why an HBCU would chose to pick a member of Trump’s administration so aggressively hostile towards minority communities and, frankly, actual education, is beyond me.

Edison O. Jackson, the president of the university, provided his reasoning in The Orlando Sentinel:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, at my invitation, will speak at Bethune-Cookman University’s spring commencement. I understand the concerns about her, and I genuinely appreciate those who voice those concerns in a constructive manner. I am especially sensitive to balancing the notion of academic freedom with quelling potentially hateful and harmful rhetoric. The political and racial chasms in our county have deepened, and college presidents have struggled with these issues over the past few months ... One of the lasting hallmarks of higher education is its willingness to engage, explore and experience that which we deem as “other.” When we shelter our students and campus communities from views that are diametrically opposed to their own, we actually leave our students far less capable of combating those ideas.

The ongoing public conversation about what constitutes constitutionally protected free speech, and what constitutes hate speech, is important. Determining what responsibility institutions have to cultivate the former while safeguarding the country against the latter seems critical as well. For what it's worth, though, the white men who write long think pieces for magazines and newspapers should take a break from losing their shit over this issue, so that the public might understand how women, people of color, and other less privileged citizens experience hate speech and its ramifications.

For example, Matthias Gafni of The Mercury News shares this story from the Bay Area:

Four Albany High School juniors punished for their roles in a racist Instagram posting incident have sued the school district and administration, alleging their free speech rights were violated and that they were subjected to public ridicule, shaming and violence ... According to school officials, parents and students, the images included nooses drawn around necks of those photographed and side-by-side photos of the girls and apes. All students associated with the account were suspended, many for as long as five days, according to the lawsuit, which claimed administrators lengthened the suspension without proper authority.

Dirk Tillotson at Great School Voices spares no feelings in his reaction:

If you are one of those few children of color—compared to monkeys, noose around your neck—or their parents, how do you feel? Is that school a safe place? Or even if you aren’t a person of color, is your Jewish or disabled or “just different” kid next? Or just as an empathetic human with an understanding of history, how can this be excused? Shame on the parents for suing, you are some privileged pieces of work. And what is the lesson you are teaching your kids? Yeah, be a total asshole, be a racist, hurt other people, and sue your way out of it.

The pro-racism wing of the "free speech" crowd reveals its moral bankruptcy during incidences like this. Moreover, from a tactical perspective, turning the perpetrators of racist hate into its victims is not a good way to win public support.

Finally this week, Vann R. Newkirk II of The Atlantic read the healthcare bill that the house GOP passed yesterday, so you don't have to:

All in all, the baseline projections of reducing coverage by over 20 million people and federal savings of $300 billion will still apply to the AHCA, which must be officially scored by the CBO over the next few weeks in order to pass by the reconciliation process in the Senate. If passed there and signed by President Trump, the Medicaid program will be slashed, and fewer older, low-income, and sick people will be able to afford insurance. The Patient and State Stability Fund will likely provide financial relief and affordable coverage for thousands of sicker Americans, but it still appears that more people of similar health status will be ejected into the ranks of the uninsured. Fewer people will be offered employer coverage as well, although it’s unclear how much changes in essential benefits will affect them. 

There are some great details here about the policy mechanics of Medicare, and Newkirk is the right person to follow - in general - as this debate shifts to the Senate. Have a great weekend!